Eddie Van Halen, the rock-and-roll legend and bona fide musical genius, died of cancer Tuesday at the age of 65. “He was the best father I could ever ask for,” his son, Wolf Van Halen, wrote in a note posted to Twitter. “Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift.” He added, “My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”
The leader and namesake of the band Van Halen for more than 40 years had first been diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2000, which caused doctors to remove a third of his tongue. Two years later, Van Halen was declared cancer free, but recently he had been battling throat cancer.
Van Halen was born on Jan. 26, 1955, in the Netherlands, and his family moved to Pasadena, California, in 1962.Van Halen’s self-titled debut album came out in 1978 and sold over 10 million copies. The band would go on to release more than a dozen. In all, the group sold more than 80 million albums total worldwide.
A frequent winner of guitar polls — he was voted No. 1 by readers of Guitar World in 2012 — Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. He was in constant demand as a collaborator as well, playing the solo on Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit “Beat It” and making guest contributions to numerous albums for other artists, including Sammy Hagar, Queen’s Brian May, Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters and LL Cool J.
Van Halen was married twice, to actress Valerie Bertinelli from 1981 to 2007 and to Jane Liszewski in 2008.